One could call it a victory for this fight to be happening at all.
Just over a year ago, riding high on a gritty unification victory over Shawn Porter, welterweight Errol Spence made a bad decision. Spence got behind the wheel under the influence. The clip of the ensuing accident was the sort that could make anyone believe some people just have the proverbial angel in their corner at the right moment.
Spence survived, lucky not to have hurt anyone else, healed, and now makes his ring return against a savvy veteran with a literal Angel in his corner. Former lineal Jr. welterweight king Danny Garcia has faltered in his last two big steps up at welterweight, losing competitively to Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter.
Welterweight hasn’t been as gilded for Garcia as a strong run one class below but he has a chance here to regain the WBC belt he briefly held and pick up what might be the most impressive win of his career.
Without the accident and COVID, this bout would likely already be in the books and Spence would likely have been a healthy odds leader. Still favored, we won’t know until the bell rings Saturday night (Fox Sports PPV, 8 PM EST) just how healthy Spence is one year later.
And even if he’s all the way back, Garcia has proven in the past favorites on paper can be undone by a big left hook.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Titles: IBF welterweight (2017-Present, 4 Defenses); WBC welterweight (2019-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’9 ½
Weight: 146 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Dallas, Texas
Record: 26-0, 21 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 162-6-2 (.959)
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, BoxRec), #2 (ESPN, Boxing Monthly)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Kell Brook KO11; Lamont Peterson RTD7; Mikey Garcia UD12; Shawn Porter SD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Chris Algieri TKO5
Previous Titles: WBC super lightweight (2012-15, 5 Defenses); WBA/Ring super lightweight (2012-15, 4 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB Jr. welterweight (2013-15, 1 Defense); WBC welterweight (2016-17)
Weight: 146 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 36-2, 21 KO
Press Rankings: #6 (Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly), #7 (TBRB), #8 (BoxRec)
Record in Title Fights: 7-2, 2 KO
Last Five Opponents: 132-15-5 (.885)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Erik Morales UD12, KO4; Amir Khan TKO4; Zab Judah UD12; Lucas Matthysse UD12; Mauricio Herrera MD12; Lamont Peterson MD12; Robert Guerrero UD12; Keith Thurman L12; Shawn Porter L12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Nate Campbell UD10; Kendall Holt SD12; Paulie Malignaggi TKO9; Brandon Rios TKO9
The Case for Spence: There’s no way around the reality of Spence’s ordeal. Being ejected from a car at high speeds, with no seat belt, inflicts body trauma. While he may not have suffered broken bones, the accident kept him out of the gym for a lengthy spell. Long layoffs are too much the norm in the current boxing scene, but Spence’s layoff was the sort that could make for some early timing and rust issues. It may take him a few rounds to really fight himself into shape and it will be smart to use his edge in height and reach early against a Garcia whose patience could help the cause. As he begins to settle into the fight, Spence would be wise to take a page from mutual former foe Lamont Peterson. Peterson lost a debatable decision to Garcia. Much of the debate came from the rounds Peterson won clearly behind a nasty body assault. Spence is an excellent body puncher and knows how to pile up punishment when he can get a foe backing up. Spence will have to be wary of Garcia’s left hook but also respect an underrated right hand. Spence is a high output fighter and if he’s in rhythm by the midway point he has a chance to pull away with punishing activity.
The Case for Garcia: Garcia might be best served to approach this fight like he did the bout with Amir Khan. Against Khan, Garcia stayed within himself against a fighter with measurements close to Spence’s and even more raw speed. He punched with Khan, letting the fight come to him, until he could uncork his power. Garcia is never going to be a whirling dervish but pushing the action a little more early against Spence could open opportunities to find out how Spence catches. Garcia is a smart boxer with a good understanding of distance and subtly effective head and upper body movement. If he can counter effectively, Garcia has the chance to slow Spence’s output and force a thinking man’s battle where Garcia can win rounds in spots. If there is a concern for Garcia it would be in wondering how hungry he really still is. His best win remains Matthysse, the height of a run now over seven years past. In the years since, Garcia was lucky as hell to get by Mauricio Herrera, scraped by Peterson, and has largely held serve against a mix of faded names and fringe contenders while staying just close enough to fall short against Porter and Thurman. Does he have one more career shocker in him?
The Pick: The assumption here is Spence’s team wouldn’t have come back against a genuinely dangerous opponent if they didn’t think Spence was ready for it. It doesn’t mean he will pick up right where he left off. The greatest threat here may be in the first four or five rounds, when Garcia is most fresh and Spence is still getting the feel of live action again. If Spence can avoid being clipped hard early, the bout could play out as what many would have expected right off the Porter win. Spence has had a good chin, can box and brawl, and has a style that makes it hard for Garcia to win rounds unless he can hurt Spence in exchanges. As Spence starts to get to the ribs, the thinking here is this fight turns from initial chess match to survival game in the second half. Garcia takes a hell of a shot but a steady drum beat can erode where a single punch to the chin might not. The pick is Spence by late stoppage or clear decision.
Rold Picks 2020: 26-10
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com